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Mining Journal Intelligence Global Leadership Report 2023

Is maintaining a social licence to operate getting harder?


Mining brings massive changes for host communities – both welcome and potentially unwelcome – and winning the local battle for hearts and minds is essential for the success of any operation.

Maintaining community support for mines and projects is getting harder – and companies expect no let-up in this trend in the coming years, according to a new report.

Mining Journal Intelligence’s (MJI) Global Leadership Report provides insights into key issues affecting mining through interviews with leaders of 20+ large (>US$1 billion market cap) companies and an industrywide survey.

This year’s theme – community relations, or social licence to operate – was identified in previous reports as a top current priority for C-suite executives (second only to safety, which was covered in the 2022 report).

Community pressures
The 2023 survey showed four-fifths (79.7%) of respondents felt maintaining a social licence had got harder over the past five years – including 40.1% who said it had got much harder.

Just 3.6% of the 228 respondents – comprising mining company bosses, mining services companies and investors – said social licence had become easier.

And even more (82.2%) said the scale of the challenge would increase further over the next five years. The figure includes 43.7% who said it will get much harder (6.7% said it would get easier).

Societal shifts
Among the executives of larger mining companies interviewed for the report, some agreed that the social licence challenge had increased in recent years, and changes in society were cited by many as the main driver behind this trend.

It definitely has got harder. Societal tolerance for the negative impacts associated with mining has decreased, and societal expectations to share in the benefits of mining have increased,” Torex Gold chief executive Jody Kuzenko said.

Other CEOs, some of whom did not explicitly agree that social licence had got harder, agreed that communities and other stakeholders had begun demanding more from the sector.

“We wouldn’t say that it is more difficult, but rather the expectation on companies to act responsibly, ethically and in the best interest of future generations is growing,” Pilbara Minerals managing director and CEO, Dale Henderson, said.

This year, more than 20 executives were interviewed, representing companies with combined market caps of more than US$300 billion. We received 228 responses to the survey, up from 105 in the 2022 report.

Mining Journal Premium Subscribers can read the full Mining Journal Intelligence Global Leadership Report 2023 online.

For research enquiries or commentary, please contact Sam Williams, Editor, Mining Journal Intelligence: sam.williams@aspermont.com

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